Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

Happy Father’s Day! Last month, I shared some of the most important things I learned from my mother’s example. My father has also been incredibly influential, and for today’s post I decided to focus on one of the most significant years of my childhood, when my father prepared me for adulthood in ways I could never have expected, and showed how the most ordinary things can teach the best lessons.

A Tale of Two Objectives

BudgetWhen my parents bought their house, the only thing they didn’t love was that the basement wasn’t finished, so they decided that they would correct that as soon as possible. It ended up taking them close to twelve years to save enough money, because hey-kids are expensive, and their first priority was always, always “our girls” (it still is). When I was nine, they were finally ready to call in the contractors. At the same time, however, their girls were old enough to desperately want a “real” family vacation (specifically, we wanted to go to Disney World). And they wanted to take us.

Mom and Dad decided that the basement could wait a little longer, because they knew that there would only be so many years for family vacations. However, Dad wasn’t convinced that they couldn’t have both. He already had some pretty solid carpentry skills, he had a good friend who was an electrician, and there were lots of books out there about plumbing and other topics. Worst case scenario, he thought, we would take the trip the next year, no matter what, and the basement might be a multi-year project. His goal, though, was to reach both objectives within a year, and he made it. Within twelve months, the basement had been transformed from a giant concrete room to a family room, laundry room, sewing room, workshop, home office, and second bathroom.

And then we went to Disney World.

Dad taught us a lot of important things that year, including:

Learn how to do things.

In my mental montage of my Dad, several images always recur:

  • book-pile.jpegDad sitting at the kitchen table with a notebook and a manual, teaching himself how to install a sink or lay carpet.
  • Dad in the basement, consulting his notes and hand drawn plans while he cuts drywall and paneling.
  • Dad back at the kitchen table, with a road atlas and another notebook, mapping out our drive to Florida, estimating gas costs, calling motels, and so on.
  • And most importantly, Dad teaching all of us as much as he could about what he was doing. We all spent time in the basement working with him, and it was the start of a lifelong pattern of Dad showing us new skills at every opportunity.

One of Dad’s favorite expressions when we were growing up was, “My girls are going to know how to…” and there were lots of ways he finished this sentence. We all know how to build a bookshelf, fix a leak, paint a room, and hang a door. We also know how to change a tire and change our oil. And all of that’s just for starters.

plan and toolsDo we always do all of those things for ourselves? No. We have our own answers to the time versus money question, and that doesn’t bother Dad. He never tells us that we’re wasting money when we pay for something that we could do on our own. What’s important to Dad, and to us, is that we can do it, if we choose to.

But even that isn’t the most critical takeaway. What Dad really taught us is that we can learn. Even in the days before the internet, if you wanted to learn a new skill, the information was available if you went looking for it. Dad’s example turned us into people who do just that. A few weeks ago, my sister Audrey’s husband mentioned that our family motto should be: “We can definitely figure that out”. It fits.

Make a plan.

Dad didn’t just involve us in the remodeling; he also made us a part of budgeting and planning for the basement and the vacation. We were all invested in both projects, as Dad’s vision for the basement was contagious, and Disney World was, well, Disney World. Over the course of the year, he taught us to think logically about a long term project, break it into steps, anticipate problems, and change direction if needed. When I was in grad school, studying organizational leadership, I was amazed at how many of the principles I was learning reminded me of Dad’s lessons during our “team meetings” (and yes, he did call them that).

CoinsMaybe the most important skill we developed was resource management and making tough decisions. Dad was completely transparent with the budget for both objectives, and when a decision had to be made, he discussed it with all of us, in ways we could understand. A nicer hotel would mean less expensive restaurants, so which was more important? Did we want to go to Sea World, or did we want more souvenir money? Did we immediately want to buy new furniture for our new basement, or wait six months to a year so we could spend more money on our trip?

Not only did that get us all voluntarily practicing our math skills (well played, Dad), but we were soon evaluating the importance of every way the family was spending money. Could movie night still be fun without pizza? What if sometimes we stayed home and played Monopoly instead of going out and playing miniature golf? How much would we save if we only had donuts every other Sunday instead of every Sunday?

That’s right, people-I voluntarily gave up donuts.

We learned to budget, to save, to delay gratification, to think long term, and to think qualitatively. In the long run, our experiences that year would help us choose colleges, jobs, homes, and much, much more. It’s the reason I was able to afford going back to school, taking the trip of a lifetime, and completely redoing the landscaping at my house. (That last one was also helped immensely by the fact that Mom, Dad, and I did 99% of the work ourselves. See the first lesson.)

Solve the problem, then tell the story.

pipesIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m much more likely to share my mistakes and ridiculousness than try to hide them. That’s completely because of my Dad. Even when he swears he’s going to keep an embarrassing moment to himself, he’ll be telling everyone about it within a day. The only thing he likes more than stories that make him look silly are stories that make us look good. I don’t want to give you the impression that finishing the basement went off without a hitch. Despite his extensive research, there were a lot of things he was doing for the first time, and mistakes were bound to happen. The most significant was when he flooded half the basement while working on the new bathroom. I can’t remember exactly why it happened, but I definitely remember the mess. Mom wasn’t home at the time, and we actually managed to clean everything up before she got back. Dad, of course, said that there was no reason to tell her about it…and then, of course, treated her to a hilarious account of the incident as soon as she got home. He showed us not to take ourselves too seriously, and that a good laugh is more than worth a little embarrassment.

Dad has also always been open about serious mistakes and things he isn’t proud of, and because of that, we’ve rarely had trouble telling him when we really screw up. We know that he understands, and that his focus will be on solutions, not judgments. Because of him, I’ve learned to be open with friends, family, and coworkers to try and create the same level of trust and comfort.

CastleWe finished the basement a few weeks before the big trip, and all of our hard work was about to pay off. However, life was about to throw us a curve. On day one of our two day drive, we were in a car accident. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the station wagon wasn’t going anywhere soon. I remember huddling in a Denny’s in a strange town five hours from home, trying not to cry while I waited for Dad to come back from the mechanic’s and tell us the vacation was over. I knew that we’d have another chance, and was determined to “be a big girl” and go back to the savings plan to get ready for next year.

Instead, Dad pulled up in a rental car and announced, “Sometimes you just have to use the credit card. Let’s go to Florida.” Then he kissed Mom and the cheek and added, “Is this going to be a great story or what?” I can’t imagine how stressed he must have been about the additional expense, but he focused on the experience, the story, and what was really important.

Our basement family room is still a place where we gather, and the framed picture of all of us in Mickey Mouse ears reminds us of everything we learned from Dad.

Dad

What were some of the most important lessons you learned as a child?

39 thoughts on “Worth Sharing: More of the Best Things I’ve Learned About Life (Thanks, Dad)

  1. Katherine says:

    Yee, happy birthday to our dad’s!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Dads are the best!!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alex Raizman says:

    Your dad sounds like an awesome guy. These are some great lessons to have passed down!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      He’s an incredible role model. I really lucked out in the parental department.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. shellteacup says:

    What a lucky girl to have such a wonderful family. Your dads life lessons are so valuable. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I never forget how blessed I am, and it’s amazing to see my sisters passing my parents’ lessons on to their girls. 🙂

      Like

  4. Sheree says:

    Amanda, those are lovely stories from your childhood. Your Dad was teaching you to be independent, such an important lesson. He sounds a lovely chap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      The ability to be independent is really important to Dad. However, he can get a little funny when we actually exercise that ability. I’ll never forget how annoyed he got the first time I changed a blown tire on my own, because apparently he only taught us to do that in case he wasn’t home when we called. Lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. kagould17 says:

    Great life lessons. When Life throws you a curve, drive around the corner to see what is there. Your Father sounds like a fine man. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I love that idea of driving around the corner. Thanks, Allan. 🙂

      Like

  6. Love this. He is one of the good guys.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great Dad! You are a lucky lady! The best thing I was taught by my dad is how to handle money. He was a great inspiration and I had my house and cars paid off with no debt by age 40. He taught me to save my money then buy material things, not take out so many loans. It took a while to get financially ahead of the game to be able to do it, but I did. At age 60 I still owe not a penny!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      That’s awesome! Money management is such an important skill.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ‘My girls are going to know how to… tell a heart-warming story through an inspiring blog!’ Great post Amanda. Respect to your Dad!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Thank you so much! Dad definitely turned us all into storytellers. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “We can figure that out.”
    What a wonderful family motto.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I’m so grateful to my parents for helping us develop that attitude, and for making my family into a team.

      Like

      1. Parents are so important in what kids become.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Shell Vera says:

    Fun post! Your dad sounds like an incredible guy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      He really is. My parents are my heroes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shell Vera says:

        That’s so sweet!! Nice to hear someone say that. I don’t hear it often about parents.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Kamber Shaffer says:

    Most of the lessons I learned from my parents were things I shouldn’t do as a responsible adult. It’s awesome that your dad was so intentional about the lessons he taught you. I often do the same with my children.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Those are the lessons we remember best.

      Like

  12. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

    Awesome!! A dad that raises independent and intelligent people! He did very well!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Yes, he did. And we’re still learning from him as adults. ☺

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

        Very cool! Is where you got your addiction to donuts from?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Amanda Cade says:

        Yes, that was totally Dad. Lol

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

        Super awesome lol!!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The Eclectic Contrarian says:

        My dad taught me to change oil and Secret Agent Man on guitar.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Carol Anne says:

    Your dad is an amazing man! He taught you well! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I’m very blessed to have him.

      Like

  14. alexraphael says:

    Great post! It’s nice it’s the same day around the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Amanda, I love hearing stories about your dad, your love and pride for him shines through so beautifully. You both inspire me, what you learned and appreciate about him and his wisdom. I admire how you honor him❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Thank you so much. Both of my parents are wonderful people, and I can’t overstate my admiration for them.

      Like

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